Spreading depression (SD) is a slowly propagating wave of near-complete depolarization of neurons and glial cells across the cortex. SD is thought to contribute to the underlying pathophysiology of migraine aura, and possibly also an intrinsic brain activity causing migraine headache. Experimental models of SD have recapitulated multiple migraine-related phenomena and are considered highly translational. In this review, we summarize conventional and novel methods to trigger SD, with specific focus on optogenetic methods. We outline physiological triggers that might affect SD susceptibility, review a multitude of physiological, biochemical, and behavioral consequences of SD, and elaborate their relevance to migraine pathophysiology. The possibility of constructing a recurrent episodic or chronic migraine model using SD is also discussed.
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